From The Top

It was early morning, well before the sun was supposed to rise when my grandmother, Norma Foster, awoke to the sound of the ringing phone and the panicky voice of her youngest daughter, my mother, Betsy on the other end.  Betsy was 9 months pregnant and due very soon and was having a little bit of a crisis. Having your first kid, you’re told a lot of things about what the experience will be like (i.e. PAINFUL!) When she had begun having contractions, she wasn’t sure if it was serious, because it wasn’t hurting. The thing about labor pains that no one had gotten around to telling her was that they don’t typically start until the water breaks. Mom wasn’t sure she was if she was in labor or not, so she called her Norma, the mother of five, who managed to provide her with the insight to get moving to the hospital pronto. They arrived at Colosseum Hospital in Macon Georgia and were admitted by 7 AM.

She had wanted to have a natural child birth, but Mom chickened out at the last minute and got an epidural. She describes the rest of her labor as “uneventful”, aside from squeezing my dad’s arm and yelling at him when he made mention of wanting to go out and take a smoke break in the middle. Other than that, no big problems, complications, or traumas, and I was born at 1:15 PM on September 5th, 1982, measuring in at 21.25 inches long and weighing 8.6 pounds. My parents had chosen to name me Samuel Allen Ward III after my father and his father before him.

My mother, Betsy Foster, and father, Allen Ward, had been happily married for about 3 years before I came along. Allen, named in long form after his own father, Samuel Allen Ward Sr., won the naming rights on their first born and decided to stick with tradition, thus naming me Samuel Allen Ward III. Once that was settled upon, they needed to figure out something to call me,  being that Sam and Allen had both been claimed by Samuel Allen Ward Sr. and Jr. respectively. Fortunately, my mom had the bright idea of simply splitting the “Allen” in half, where they got “Len”, the name I’ve gone by in one form or another across the span of my entire life, as opposed to making me go by something like “Lil’ Sam” or “Lil’ Allen” for the rest of my life.

By all accounts, I was born a pretty healthy looking kid, the biggest one in the nursery at the time, with wide brown eyes and an exceptionally long neck that jokingly earned me the nickname of “E.T.”. The problems didn’t start until the next day when nurses informed my parents that they had placed me into an incubator because they couldn’t regulate my temperature and had no idea what was going on. These kinds of things were common in many newborns at times and easily fixable. My parents initially thought nothing of it and just assumed to wait it out while I “cooked”.

It soon came to be found that the problem wasn’t as minor as they’d thought, thanks to the worries of a keen ears of Dr. Minor C. Vernon, (Awesomest name ever!) who noticed a faint murmur in my heart beat, I was put under another series of tests which confirmed there to be a problem in the plumbing of my heart. Dr. Vernon had been on vacation in the days previous after my birth and came into my mom’s room with a sense of alarm in his tone, telling my mother that they were going to need to take me to Egleston Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. It turned out that there was a sizable hole in between the left and right ventricles of my heart, which caused the muscles in the left ventricular chamber to pump the blood into the rest of my system at a very weak rate. The medical name for the condition is an endocardial cushion defect with a hypoplastic left ventricle, and it’s a condition that in it’s time, was so rare and dangerous that practically every child who’d been diagnosed with it had died, including a young girl named Lindsay, who ended up being my roommate at Egleston and passed away at the age of six due to her heart’s advanced damage and the fact that at the time, the medical procedures to fix the condition hadn’t been invented yet. If that Dr. Vernon hadn’t come back to work that day, if he hadn’t given my heart and my problems a second look, this story would have ended a lot differently. In a rush, I was taken from my parents and fast tracked via ambulance to the children’s hospital as my parents watched the ambulance drive away.

Len, The Zipper Club, & The Long Odds featured in Louisville KY’s The Courier Journal!

As the thin veil of panic and distress began to lift around my life when The Zipper Club campaign ended in success, I got an interesting phone call. In my final weeks worth of marathon panic to find funding, I took to posting a series of fliers around town to help get the word out in whatever manner I could. It didn’t appear that the fliers had done much to drum up business, but we made it through the campaign successfully anyhow. About a week after the campaign’s end I got an interesting voice mail from a young lady working for Louisville’s local paper, The Courier Journal. She introduced herself as Kirsten Clark, and said she had just gotten the job with the CJ and saw my flyer in a local book store, pitched the idea of covering it to her editor and wondered if I would be cool with talking to her about the project for the paper.

Of course, I promptly said “no thank you” to her offer of free advertising, because being broke and “keeping it real” are half the point of being an artist, no matter what your medium.  Unfortunately my friendly decline didn’t wash with the plucky young reporter, as she managed to track me down on 5 separate occasions and coerce information from me to get her precious story which is printed in today’s issue of the CJ as well as available to read online.

In the span of our conversations, she asked me about everything from my childhood to my career as a writer to my continuing life living with my heart defect and I got to know a little about her and how she came to be working for the paper in Louisville. When she mentioned some of her rejected story pitches including one about midwifery being legalized in Indiana after being outlawed for decades for whatever strange reason they might have had, I knew she was just weird enough that we’d get along just fine.

In all seriousness, it was an honor to talk with Kirsten on every occasion and she took every bit of information that I bombarded her with in professional stride. She’s new in her field, but I think she’ll go far and from what I understand, this is her first big pitched project for the paper to see print. I couldn’t be happier with the justice she’s done with telling my story and the story of what Brenda and I are doing with The Zipper Club as well as what I hope to accomplish within this blog in the span of 800 meager words and I humbly beseech her bosses to give her whatever she wants in the future.

Read the article here and feel free to post all sorts of positive comments on their site so we can help Kirsten impress her bosses as much as possible.

A Badly Drawn Boy Presents: The Sunday Sketch Dump (Vol. 1)

Something I figured I’d do since I’m pretty much making it up as I go along with this blog was the idea that, since I’m technically a professional artist ever since The Zipper Club crowd funded and actually made money off of me offering to do sketches, I’d end up posting some of the ones I did on commission, but for one reason or another, couldn’t throw up on the site for because they didn’t have any sort of place or context to be used here on the blog. Instead of letting these sketches only be enjoyed or ridiculed by the people who paid for them, I figured I’d do a round-up at the end of the week to show off the kind of goofy stuff I kicked out that was unrelated to The Long Odds.

This week, I have three.

First up…

Let it be said that as jaded as I’ve become and as little as I read mainstream superhero books anymore, I’m always going to have a soft spot for Batman. The campy, Adam West version of Batman to be precise. I love that a character that’s been tied to such bleak outlooks and darkness can also be such a bastion of insane fun and wackiness. When Brett Schenker, curator of the online comic site, Graphic Policy asked for his Zipper Club donor perk sketch to be of Batman and the Joker, the idea for what to draw came to me almost immediately. The idea of crossing over the zaniness of the former TV show with some of the bleakness of some of The Man Of Bat’s more modern story lines was too good to pass up.

They’ve currently resurrected the campy TV version of Batman in digital comic form, written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Jonathan Case. Needless to say, this made my inner fanboy very happy and just putting it out there, if Mr. Case’s hand ever get’s tired, I’d like a little consideration if you guys need a fill-in artist. 😉

Second up, another TZC award perk, this one to comic pin-up and cover artist Joe Pekar, who asked me to do my interpretation of his cheesecake “Good girl” character, Brandi Bare. After reading a couple of Joe’s books, the idea came to me to have Brandi finally wising up to the pervy machinations of her stuffed teddy bear backpack, Bear, and his constant schemes to put his owner in compromising positions like stepping over a grate to have her skirt blown up Marilyn Monroe style. Getting asked to draw a character that I don’t own, by the actual person who does own it was pretty cool, and Joe seems pretty pleased with the job I did, (or at least was kind enough to humor me).

And finally, this one isn’t exactly a commission, but I’ll put it out there for anyone who might want to work something out in the off chance they want to purchase it. My obsession for the last five years with the AMC TV series Breaking Bad will be coming to an end starting next month when the final season begins to air, and I did this while watching an episode the other night. Can’t wait to see how things are going to end for Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the gang, although I’m sure it probably won’t end well for any of them.

Welcome to The Zipper Club

One project you’ll be hearing no shortage of updates on in the coming months is my upcoming all-ages graphic novella series, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Liz López. The Zipper Club is half the reason I started The Long Odds blogging project after the success of our Zipper Club IndieGoGo campaign provoked an increased interest in my own, personal story with heart disease.

Not long after Love Buzz‘ debut, I was approached by Andrew Goletz, the founder of Grayhaven Comics, who liked what Michelle, Dave, Tom, and myself did so much that he asked if I had any ideas for the new all-ages anthology series they wanted to put together called The Gathering. After spending several days racking my brain for ideas and coming up with a couple of rather uninspired concepts about imaginary friends and mystical adventures that I wasn’t absolutely in love with, I started getting emails about the upcoming yearly gathering of Camp Bravehearts back in my old Kentucky home. After a little bit of wistful reminiscing, I realized that I had my next great story idea.

The story of The Zipper Club, inspired by my own journey growing up with heart disease, as well as my 12 years of experience as a counselor for a congenital heart defect summer camp called Camp Bravehearts inspired me to write a comic book about the kind of kids I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know in all that time.

At age 8, Cliffy Goldfarb was the recipient of an emergency heart
transplant. At age 9, Cliffy is now struggling to cope with the
limitations his still recovering body is undergoing, and the fact that
because of this, he has trouble relating to his peers. When his mom
suggests spending his summer at Camp Bravehearts, a place for kids
living with heart defects like his own, he has some trepidations about
going this camp for “special” kids, but soon learns his worries were
all over nothing when he meets a young girl named Rosie who introduces
him to a group of new friends who encourage him by showing off their
surgical scars to one another and inducting Cliffy into The Zipper
Club.

Over the next year, Brenda and I produced a series of six separate short stories, following the different themes given to us by each subsequent issue of The Gathering‘s editors (Despair, Heroes, Romance, a two part Ghost story in subsequent horror issues, and Myth) and managed to make each theme hit the right note to tell it’s own story while still building on the continuing saga of our kids and their first summer together at Camp Bravehearts. The goal being that when read all together, the shorts would come together to read as one complete story of five kids forming a unique bond over the course of one week at summer camp. The story within the first Zipper Club book is only the beginning, too. Should it become popular enough, Brenda and I have plans to do 4 more books on a yearly basis, telling the story of the five kids, one year later in their lives and development from the ages of 8 years old to 13 by the time we’re done. Our goal is to make each annual book into something akin to the same experience of coming back to summer camp to see the smiling faces of your old friends again and see how their lives have developed. I’m currently wrist deep in scripting next years annual as Brenda finishes up art on the book for year one.

You can pre-order copies of The Zipper Club in The Long Odds’ store on bigcartel.com for just seven dollars. The book will hold 54 pages of content, including 40 pages of fully colored Zipper Club story, as well as several pages of fun back matter, such as games, puzzles, pin-up art, and so forth, all in a digest sized, prestige format package. I’m also working hard on a way to sell copies in bulk for interested retailers and more importantly, children’s hospitals and pediatric cardiac care clinics all over the nation. If anyone reading this is interested in a bulk buy, please shoot me a line through the Contact page  and we’ll see what can be worked out.

We hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE ZIPPER CLUB NOW!

DON’T FORGET TO LIKE THE ZIPPER CLUB ON FACEBOOK, TOO!

A Badly Drawn Boy

When I tell people I work in comics, the first question they ask if I’m an illustrator. In all the years since I have started, I concocted a stock answer to this question, which I have used hundreds of times ever since.

“I just write them. I can’t draw to save my life.”

This is a semi-untruth. If someone were to come and put a gun to my head and say “Draw me a sad clown eating a bowl of cereal with the milk of his own tears or I’ll pull the trigger”, I’d put a pencil to paper and draw the least anatomically correct, flat looking, and undetailed clown possible, but I’d at least try and make it funny looking enough to keep my gray matter off of the downwind wall.  I would think it would be enough to save my life because if a gunman had sense of humor enough to tell me to draw a clown eating cereal lubed with its own tears, their sense of humor was in my wheelhouse. Clearly, if I thought I absolutely couldn’t draw, I wouldn’t be centering this blog around some of the goofy crap my brain cooks up and scrawls out regularly. I may never be good enough or have the patience enough to figure out how to professionally draw a comic on my own, but maybe I’ll take that plunge some day. I’ve learned not to say “no” to almost any possibility, and in the last year, I’ve begun to take that notion to further and further extremes. My confidence in my artwork has never been huge, and even these days, it’s only slightly bigger than “never been huge”.

As a kid, drawing was something I really loved to do. My time spent in and out of hospitals made me an avid comic book reader, and I always envied the guys who got to draw them.  The iconic characters, the vivid settings, the outlandish storytelling, the crazy action that the special effects of even the best of the 1980’s flicks just weren’t able to touch. All of it! That crap was better than candy to me, and I wished I could do it as well as the guys who were paid what I thought were “the big bucks” for bringing these epic stories to life. I wanted to be one of them, really badly.

My wonderful mother was nice enough to encourage, or perhaps just humor me in this endeavor. She was there stocking me to the gills with art supplies, a few cartooning lessons, and an unwavering level of support which has run strong through every other “pie in the sky” dream I’ve had ever since. Slowly, I began to hone my skills as an artist in ways that only a boy with hands so rickety that they could screw up a straight line even with the assistance of a ruler could do. I went on for a couple of years drawing crude story books and comics until I found myself under the tutelage of a rather draconian at art teacher when I reached middle school. A typical day in class would sound something like this.

“What are you drawing, Ward?”

“A picture of my dog, Michelangelo playing laser tag!”

“Your form is all wrong!”

“B-but…”

“No! It must be done like this!”

Obviously, I’m dramatizing a bit, but you get the picture. When you’re young and you are told you’re doing it wrong pretty much every time, you can become easily discouraged. I put away my pencils and shoved that dream into a drawer next to my dream of being made an honorary Ninja Turtle and moved on to wanting to be a baseball player despite being too terrified to swing at a damn ball.

In the years that followed, I would make sporadic attempts at picking up the pencil again. In an ill-advised move, I very nearly considered drawing the entirety of my first published graphic novel , Love Buzz, all by myself. Thankfully, I realized what a horrendous idea that would’ve been and I went about seeking out artists who could do the job properly. That’s how I ended up finding Michelle and Dave for the task.

Simply put, I stopped caring. I embraced the fact that my art is nowhere near professional, but that my hands and my warped brain can sometimes communicate to come up with something so silly that people can’t help but laugh, no matter how bad it looks. I even got the wild urge to try and include a personally drawn sketch with our Zipper Club crowd funding campaign and it turned out to be one of the most popular items we sold. What’s more, it now technically makes me a “professional artist”. I chuckle to myself every time I hear the words leaving my mouth, but it’s true. I’m even thinking of including hand-drawn sketches in The Long Odds store as well as offering t-shirts of some of my more far-out drawings.

Sure, the anatomy is wonked all to hell, the coloring style is pretty strictly flat, and I still can’t draw a straight line if you had a gun to my head, but something about what I’m doing amuses people, and I’m done ignoring that. I’ve learned that if you embrace your weak points just like you would your strong ones, you’ll live a lot less stressful a life. It becomes one less thing that someone else can use as ammunition against you to make you feel small.

I had written myself off as an “artist” due to all of those experiences over the years. Fortunately, I discovered my knack for writing and telling stories as a teenager and began pursuing it with the same stubborn sense of tenacity that kept me from going crazy as a sick kid and angsty teenager. That became my creative outlet, while the art became something I had written off for a long time. Fortunately, I’m thankful for the half-joking idea I had that made me offer my own sketches through our Zipper Club IGG campaign, and even more thankful for the number of people who were awesome enough to plunk down money to actually buy some. I can’t promise the work you’ll buy will be Norman Rockwell, or even Rob Liefield, but I can promise it’ll at least elicit a light chuckle. If you’re going to do something badly, at very least, do it with style. You might have some fun in the process.

BETTING THE LONG ODDS – An Introduction

These are the words of a boy who should have died.

I’ve come to be known as a great many things across the span of my thirty year life. Comic book writer, outgoing heart health advocate, internet malcontent, real life malcontent, “that weird kid from high school who showed up dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl that time”, or even “Who the hell are you?” The odds are that if you’re reading this right now, you probably know me as any one of the things on that list. We all come to be defined by our deeds or attributes as our lives progress. It’s something that just can’t be helped because we simply can’t “get to know” everyone, so we often have to label them with our own snap judgments. Above all of these and any other words that might define me; the one label that I truly feel has defined me throughout my entire lifespan thus far is a single word.

Survivor.

I was born in 1982 with a congenital heart problem known as an endocardio cushion defect with a hypoplastic left ventricle, a congenital birth defect so rare that if you Google it, my name is pops up in literally every result. Until recently, children born with the defect were sent out of the hospital with their parents with it going unnoticed until the infant would die mere days later. Doctors have told my family that to their knowledge, I’m the oldest living survivor of my condition. This is due in part to the fact that not long after I was born, medical science advanced so much that my specific condition became identifiable and even treatable in utero.  However, when I was born, the prognosis for children with my defect was so bad that none survived. If not for a keen-eared doctor, I would have ended up as one of those statistics.

For many years, my health problem was something I didn’t like talking about, not because I was timid or ashamed of it, but because it  had become something I would have to talk about so much that the impact of my experiences didn’t hold the same weight for me anymore. They had just become words to recite to doctors at routine physicals or to politicians I was trying to advocate on behalf of the American Heart Association. With the recent success of crowd funding my latest comic book project, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Lopez, I began to realize again the level of weight that my personal story continues to carry.  Just as I would like for The Zipper Club to become a handbook for teaching children how to deal with adversity in the face of health problems, I began to realize I had so many more stories to tell on the subject.  It helped to reconnect me with the power of a personal story.

Any way you slice it, writing any form of autobiographical work typically involves at least one or two degrees of a self-serving delusion of grandeur. Anyone who writes one of these things and tries to tell you otherwise is a lying goon, but I digress. I intend to try and keep this as low to the ground as possible and insert my own weird brand of humor and insight in an effort to break up some of the more tense entries. What I can promise is that this will not be a grueling, constant slog through my own personal sense of morbidity.  Though it will delve into a fair share of morbid topics from time to time, the central idea of The Long Odds, more than anything, is celebration of life from a guy with the odd perspective of being written off for dead several times before he got a chance to truly start living.

I’m a writer. Statistically speaking, we’re not the sunniest bunch of people who ever lived.  Like most who choose to pursue this as a profession, I deal with your standard depressions, anxieties, and the occasional feelings of inadequacy, but then again, who doesn’t? Unlike most stereotypes that follow writers, I’m not a drug addict, I only drink socially, have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I’ve never entertained a serious suicidal thought.  My condition no longer requires my having to take any form of medication and hasn’t caused me a single problem since I was eight years old.  I exercise regularly and am working hard to expand the limits of what my body and my heart can take. I’m physically healthier than I’ve ever been, and I’m ready to see what life plans to throw in my path next.

What will follow in the weeks, months, maybe even years ahead will be an uncompromising introspective into the large and small facets of my life as it’s been, as it goes, and what I hope it can become as the seconds on the meter of my borrowed time continue to tick upward.  As unflinchingly honest as I and my admittedly spotty memory can recall (the rest, I’ll either find through research or will either come right out and say it may or may not be slight to total bullshit).

I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded at a great many things, but if being written off while lying in hospital beds throughout my formative years with stitches in my chest and tubes coming out of various parts of my body have taught me one thing, it’s that no matter how bleak an outlook gets, there’s no excuse to give up. My hope is that people reading this, no matter what their walk of life, whether suffering from health problems, or just chasing a dream that most of their family and friends shrug off as a fool’s errand,  that my words will speak to at least one of them on an intimate level and help encourage them to keep fighting until they’ve spent their last ounce of strength and then getting in one more punch for good measure.

When that “worst case scenario” hits, when somebody tells you that anything you want to do is impossible, even when the only person stubborn enough to believe in you is you,

Take the bet and roll the dice.

The win’s always bigger when you’re playing the long odds.

THUS SPOKE POINTY ROCK – A Prologue in the Form of a Young Man’s Fable

A young man stands beyond the boundary of his thirtieth years of age and realizes that he’s quickly running out of time to keep referring to himself as a “young man”. Being shoved off the edge of a cliff called Your Twenties, he landed and received compound fractures in both of his legs on the craggy ground of His Thirties.

On the first days of His Thirties, the young man screamed in vain as he pushed the splintered bones back into the holes they had torn in his flesh and reset the bones, passing out and awakening several times in the process until he could finish the job. He spent the next couple of months letting his legs mend, lying on his back, looking back up at the ledge of Your Twenties and at the small bit of sunshine that still peaked over at him. It was a pretty boring, very depressing, and kind of pathetic state.

When the young man could finally stand again, he began to stagger around, reacquainting himself with the ability to walk and began his trek to join the rest of his brethren drones residing in His Thirties.

On that journey, the young man was known to converse loudly and to no one in particular, things such as…

“What am I doing with my life?”

“Is everything I’ve ever done in pursuit of something I will never achieve?”

“Should I cut my losses and trade it all in for a suit and a business degree?”

“What’s the point of all this?”

“The answer is simple, young man.” A small, gravelly voice called out to him.

“Who said that?” The young man asked, swinging his head around to find the source of the voice, seeing no sign of life for yards and miles.

I did.” The voice called from down at the young man’s feet, where all he could see was grass and a triangular chip of stone upon which the young man was about to stub his toe and curse profusely.

“Pointy rock…?” The young man asked.

“I am the He who is referred to as Him!” The pointy rock replied.

“That makes no sense.” The young man said with a furrowed brow as he bent down and grabbed the rock to inspect it.

“It does if the ‘he’ and the ‘him’ are both capitalized.”

“You mean that guy I’m not even sure I believe in?”

“The very same!”

The young man grabbed up the talking rock and inspected it for any form of Holy scribbles or new rules for him to share with his fellow man. The rock was merely a jagged, pointy triangle of stone that had probably chipped off of “The Twenties” during some other hapless man or woman’s fall. There was no scripture to be found.

“You must write about how you got here!” said the pointy rock.

“Okay, I’ll bite, but…” The young man cleared his throat and spoke in a low, self-conscious tone “Aren’t people who write about their lives either famous or a bunch of self-absorbed jerks?”

The rock stayed silent.

“Oh, eat a bag of turds, you stupid rock!” the young man said, lifting the rock in his good throwing arm and aiming for the sinking, soupy river of The Impending Forties.

“You have a story to tell, young man!” The rock blurted, stopping the young man cold in the middle of his best Nolan Ryan wind-up.

“What story?” The young man asked.

“Why, the story of a life well lived, chap!”

“Who will listen? What kind of person wants to listen to a young man pontificating under the advisement of some preachy piece of mineral?”

“Perhaps no one.” The rock said thoughtfully.

Having had enough of the rock’s hot and cold treatment, the young man lifted the rock and once more aimed for the somber seas of Impending Forties.

“…Or perhaps your experiences, your triumphs and failures will serve to help someone in their hour of need.” The rock finally continued, prompting the young man to once again pause his throw.

The young man dropped his arm to his side, gripping the rock in his fist and looked out at the distance past the cliff he had been cast off of for the first time. A gust of wind blew through his hair in a manner most epic. Had the young man been wearing a fully unbuttoned shirt, it would billow behind him in a fashion most heroic, as if caught up in this blowing breeze of destiny.

“The things you’ve seen and experienced are things only few will ever encounter, young man.” The rock said.

The young man looked down at himself in his naked splendor. His body was a road map of scar tissue, body hair, and a physique that clearly said “Work in progress”. All of these things, pieces of a larger puzzle.

But the pointy rock wasn’t finished.

“Not to mention the times you’ve royally messed up and made a complete ass of yourself.”

The young man scowled as the rock continued berating him.

“Relationships, career opportunities, every damn time you’ve cut a jalapeno and then went to the bathroom, totally forgetting the fact that you had just cut a jalapeno…”

“You going somewhere with this?” The young man asked, having about had his fill.

“All of this and you’re still kicking around undeterred. Surely, you must know as well as I do that not many people are that tenacious in their pursuits of anything they love or want.”

The young man stood for a ponderous moment as the words rolled around in his skull like a stone inside a shoe he wasn’t wearing. The young man hefted the rock in one hand and gave it a smile.

“Thanks, Pointy Rock!” the young man said before launching it towards the sinking mire of Impending Forties.

And so, listening to the rapidly fading sounds of the pointy rock as it profanely cursed his name before hitting the water, the young man, regaining his strength and assurance with each step, began his trek forward to rejoin the rest of his nervous, panicky friends he would accompany through the salmon school of His Thirties.  Slowly, shedding the chains of a hokey metaphor, leaving them behind with the delusions of a deified piece of slag and the less than subtle analogies about aging being a straight drop off a cliff.  The young man walked back to the air-conditioned apartment in which he regularly lived, sat down in front of a computer and proceeded to do one of the only things he ever thought he was good at…